Gators Can the Dolphins in NIT

A lineup change sparks the Florida Gators to a big win in the O'Connell Center in the first round of the NIT. Billy Donovan inserted guard Erving Walker into the lineup over forward Chandler Parsons and the substitution seemed to ignite Parsons for his second double-double of the season. The Gators started fast and never let up in the 84-62 win over Jacksonville University.

Florida (24-10) is in its ninth trip to the NIT and the second in two years got off to a fast start against Jacksonville (18-14 )running out to a 10-2 lead with the first seven points coming from sophomore forward Alex Tyus. Tyus was one of five Gators in double digits scoring 13 on the night.

Florida Head Coach Billy Donovan said after the game his team came in with a great mindset and he was never worried about how they would approach the game.

"Everyone gets concerned where our guys would be emotionally and mentally," Donovan said. "I think they came out ready to play. I thought we played well on both ends. They were a very physical team and I thought our guys competed about as well as they could. I thought we played well and I am happy for these guys."

It was the lineup change of bringing forward Chandler Parsons off the bench that was the real story of the night. Parsons attacked the basket early when first inserted in the game. He actually had an attempted dunk blocked but soon after sank a three-point shot and never looked back from his 17 point and 14 rebound performance. Donovan decided a change may help the sophomore forward.

"I think Chandler in the last 4-6 games hasn't been himself," Donovan said. "I have seen it happen a lot when a guy goes from playing about 18 minutes to a much more expanded role. It can be overwhelming and he can get a feeling like he has to do something. I think that just the way to try and get him to play better…It was good to see Chandler get some shots, but also getting to the back board and getting some rebounds."

Donovan plans on using the same lineup again and wants to see Parsons focused again for another big game.

"Right now that would be the plan…Erving played well and Chandler played well," Donovan said. "The hardest thing for a young player is to be able to handle success. Chandler did a nice job today and he handled the ball for us. The one thing I will say about Chandler, I have never felt like he has given up. He has tried to figure things out and has had that attitude. How he comes out in the next game, I think that is also important."

The Gators were a little short handed on Wednesday and were playing with an even more whittled down bench than has been the case all season. The smaller bench meant freshman center Eloy Vargas saw time early in the first half.

"Eloy because of the ankle, his biggest problem has been mobility," Donovan said. "I think he's trying. Kenny Kadji had a banged up knee and had the flu and Eloy came in and gave us good minutes. We played with a short bench…with Chaney out, Adam Allen out, and even Kenny out, we were in a situation of playing Kyle McClanahan because Walter got two early fouls. I wanted to give Eloy an opportunity to see what he could do and he played sporadically.

The Gators saw five score in double figures with Parsons and Walker (11). Sophomore guard Nick Calathes scored a game high 19, and dished out a game high six assists. Senior Walter Hodge finished with 11 points and junior forward Dan Werner finished with 10.

The Gators played well defensively holding JU to 36.8 percent shooting for the game. They corralled the Dolphins' leading scorer Ben Smith holding him to seven points on 2-of-13 shooting.

It was a physical game and one with a technical foul called on JU's Lehmon Colbert after a lot of verbal exchanges transpired between the two teams and especially with Parsons. Donovan liked to see his team play in a physical game and also mentioned that he thinks they have played tough all year noting that they rarely were in a position where they were not in a game with the clock winding down almost all season.

"I don't know what's going to happen on Friday (when the Gators play Miami in round two), but there were games last year where we had several double digit losses," Donovan said. "This didn't happen this year outside of us playing at Tennessee and in first half without our point guard. The one thing that has been good about this team is that they have put themselves in a position to win every night. There are a lot of teams in the top 10 and top 20 that have been blown out. That hasn't happened to us. I think we have made some progress there."

The Gators are hoping for a better turnout than the 4,350 in attendance when they host Miami in the second round Friday night. The Hurricanes are coming off of a win over Providence 78-66.


Fightin Gators Top Stories